In Game 5 of their first-round series, the Habs had to win to stay alive. Joel Armia scored the Habs’ first two goals, and Nick Suzuki potted the winner to take them to the crucial sixth game of the series, while Carey Price made 27 saves and only allowed three goals.
27? Didn’t the Maple Leafs take only 29 shots on Thursday? Indeed, they did – the preceding was a summary of last year’s Game 5 against the Flyers. Eerily similar, and Saturday’s question was whether the Habs would be able to rewrite the Game 6 script and go to a seventh game.
Last year, the Habs dominated the shot statistics, taking 33 on the Flyers’ net while Price only had 17 aimed at his. Unfortunately, three of those 17 were deflected in front of the net and flew in past him. Suzuki scored two, but they were not to be enough that time. What would Game 6 bring this time, with the Leafs as the opponent?
First Time on the First Line
Jake Evans, recovered from his earlier (but undisclosed) injury, was a late entry into the lineup after not being on a line in the morning skate, but instead of taking on his usual centre position on the fourth line, he joined Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher on the top line. That meant that Tomas Tatar, who had been held without a point in the first five games, was a healthy scratch.
The top line was energized early, as were the second and third units, and the Canadiens had the first six shots of the game by the two-minute mark when Josh Anderson got called for an offensive-zone minor penalty for tripping William Nylander. The Habs did not let up the pressure on the penalty kill and registered the only two shots of the Toronto man advantage.
Les Habitants got their own power play chance five minutes later, but the scoring chance came some 30 seconds later, with Suzuki managing to dash through between the two Toronto defencemen for a one-on-one chance against Jack Campbell. The Leafs’ goalie made the save, though, as Suzuki was unable to lift the puck over Campbell’s right pad.
Near the end of the period, Armia made a deft pass to Eric Staal, allowing the veteran to slip through into a shooting position between the circles. A shot aimed at the top left was deflected by Corey Perry but over the net.
Mitch Marner slipped past Brett Kulak soon after that, streaking down the right side of the rink. With Nylander trying to create a distraction in front, Marner wristed a low shot at the right side of the net, looking fairly innocuous. The shot glanced off Jeff Petry’s skate, though, looking much more dangerous, but Price gloved that calmly and comfortably.
In the dying seconds, Nick Foligno had another chance to take the lead for the Leafs as Price stretched over to try to reduce the open net, but Foligno’s shot was barely off the ice, and bounced harmlessly off Price’s pad.
15 shots to 9, then, in the first period, and a strong first period for the Habs by any measure – apart from actual goals, that is.
A Second Toronto PP Opportunity
In the second, the Maple Leafs were energized early, taking the play to the Canadiens much more than they were able to do in the first period. At the four-minute mark, this pressure paid off, as Shea Weber cleared the puck from the defensive zone – over the glass, resulting in a delay-of-game call.
The Habs’ penalty kill was again aggressive, and the Leafs were not able to apply concerted pressure in spite of the man advantage. Just as the penalty expired, Tyler Toffoli was able to steal the puck at the Montreal blue line for a two-on-one break that turned into a three-on-one as Weber jumped out of the penalty box. Jake Muzzin played defence to perfection, though, taking away any opportunity for Toffoli to pass the puck, and Campbell was able to make a fairly routine save.
Shortly after that, though, Muzzin pulled off the ice with what appeared to be a groin injury and did not reappear for the rest of the game, putting a big hole in the Toronto defensive corps.
The Habs were able to hem Toronto into their own zone a number of times late in the period and had a handful of solid scoring chances, but Campbell was able to get in front of anything that was headed for the net.
Overall, though, the second stretch was much less free-wheeling than the first, with less than half the shots of the first period. The shots were nearly tied this time, but by any measure, the Habs had the better opportunities to score.
And yet, the game was still scoreless, and the Habs’ season was now down to a single period. Price has been holding down the fort, but would the forwards be able to put the puck in the net?
The Third One Changes All
Danault got caught with some poor judgment early on and was sent to the penalty box for grabbing Auston Matthews’ stick in the defensive zone. Unlike the first two power plays, the Leafs were able to put the puck on Price, but the veteran goalie was able to make comfortable-looking saves on all three shots.
Only a minute later, Nylander took his own foolish penalty, running into Price. It took the Habs’ first power play unit only ten seconds to do the damage. Tyler Toffoli took a shot from the right side, and Campbell dropped the rebound in front of the net.
In the ensuing scramble, with Perry and Toffoli trying to fight off the Leafs defenders and Campbell sprawled on the ice, it was Perry who got control of the puck on the blue ice and tucked it into the back of the net for the first goal of the game.
Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe decided to challenge the play on the basis of goaltender interference, but the review result came back quickly in the Habs’ favour: the goal stood, and the Nylander was sent to the box for a delay of game penalty.
Only 19 seconds into the penalty kill, Marner cleared the puck over the glass, making it a two-man power play. Halfway through the two-man advantage, Suzuki found Toffoli open just to the right of Campbell and sent him a quick short pass. Tyler made no mistake in one-timing it, catching the small gap between the post and Campbell’s left shoulder: a two-goal lead for the Habs. Petry collected an assist on the goal, Montreal’s first point from a defenceman. Heading into the game, they were the first team in playoff history to make it to Game 6 without a point from the back end. That was all for the power play production, though, as they were unable to score on the back half of the Marner minor.
Ben Chiarot took a slashing penalty against Marner a little bit before the halfway mark, and the Habs were forced back into the penalty kill. Price stopped everything thrown his way, though, and got into the PK action with a superb clearing shot, followed by a block of a centring pass with his blocker.
At 11:35, though, Jason Spezza broke free in the Montreal zone and skated across the front of Price’s net. Petry was half a step behind and was unable to keep Spezza from taking the shot. In the end, Spezza’s wrister deflected off Petry’s stick – again – but this time it was too quick, too close, and Price was unable to get his glove on it.
With the third goal of the game, the lead was cut in half, then, with some eight minutes left in the third period. And with that, the momentum shifted as well.
And with three minutes left, it all fell apart for the Habs. Chiarot lost the puck in the offensive zone, and Staal and Josh Anderson were unable to stop the rush. Pierre Engvall fed the puck to T.J. Brodie, who took a hard shot that bounced off Petry’s skate and into the Canadiens’ net.
The last few minutes were all white and blue but without a solid scoring opportunity. The Habs would live to play another period, at least.
It’s Not Over Until Someone Scores
The early overtime was all Maple Leafs, with the blue-and-white sweaters beating the red ones to the pucks on both offensive and defensive zones. Price made 12 consecutive saves, including some excellent ones, to start the overtime. It took nearly 13 minutes for Toffoli to register Montreal’s first shot on Campbell.
But with just under five minutes left in the first overtime, Paul Byron and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were breaking into the Leafs’ zone, and Byron, on the right wing, fed a pass to Kotkaniemi, on his left after Travis Dermott turned it over.
Kotkaniemi took a shot at the top right of the Leafs’ net, but the puck glanced off Zach Bogosian’s shin pad and changed direction slightly, and Campbell was unable to react to it. It was another OT win, then, again with a goal scored by the Habs’ youth movement.
Onto Game 7, Then
The Habs may count themselves lucky to have survived the Maple Leafs’ onslaught late in the third and in overtime, but they also might have been able to score another goal or two earlier. An undeserved win? Surely not, but certainly a hard-fought one.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Carey Price
Only two goals on 40+ shots, and both of those on unfortunate deflections off Jeff Petry. If this is not clutch goaltending, what is? Price was the foundation of this win and more than a match for Campbell in the Leafs’ net.
Stats: 37 saves, 39 shots, 1.59 GAA, .953 save %, 75:15 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Kotkaniemi continued his strong postseason showings with a very timely goal. With limited ice time and paired with less-offensive linemates, Kotkaniemi still found the extra gear when it mattered.
Stats: 1 goal, 4 shots, 1 hit, 1 block, 15:00 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Corey Perry
Perry was acquired for his playoff experience and grit, and he is showing what he is made of. The opening goal, from the blue-ice scramble, was not a pretty one but it counts just as much as the highlight-reel goals.
Stats: 1 goal, 2 shots, 2 blocks, 17:15 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Tyler Toffoli
Toffoli had been effective at times during the series but was quiet offensively. He was due for a goal and finally was rewarded for his efforts with Montreal’s second power play tally while adding an assist for good measure. It was nice to see him break the goose egg.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 shots, 2 hits, 20:01 T.O.I.